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Instruments set sail for Cuba to aid musicians in defiance of the US blockade

THOUSANDS of musical instruments bound for Cuba will set sail from Liverpool docks today in a US blockade-busting move to support young Cuban musicians.

Two 40ft shipping containers have been filled with more than 4,000 instruments following a major donation drive launched at the National Education Union (NEU) conference last year.

Many of the donations are old and second-hand musical instruments from primary and secondary schools across the country.

Instruments donated include 340 guitars, more than 300 violins, 83 saxophones, 65 clarinets, 31 trumpets, eight tubas, 10 cellos, 72 electric keyboards, pianos and a set of bagpipes.

The instruments have been donated as part of the nationwide appeal Play For Cuba.

Musical instruments and resources in Cuba are often in short supply because of the impact of the ongoing US blockade, the appeal highlights.

The blockade is putting thousands of young musical talents in jeopardy in Cuba, a country famous for its music where creative arts are fully integrated into the curriculum.

A colourful public send-off will see live Cuban music performing outside the Liverpool ACC conference in King Dock Street from 6pm today.

NEU joint general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted will speak alongside Cuban ambassador Teresita Vicente ahead of the instruments’ six-week trip to Cuban capital Havana.

Mr Courtney said: “We are incredibly proud of our union’s solidarity with Cuba and are delighted to be able to help young people across the island with their musical education.”

The donations also include thousands of pairs of ballet shoes donated by the Royal Ballet and a valuable baby grand piano destined for one of the country’s renowned conservatoires.

National charity Music Fund For Cuba, which supports the appeal and arts funding in the country, said it is fitting the final send-off is in a city synonymous with Britain’s musical culture.

Music Fund for Cuba director Rob Miller said: “These instruments will help a little in overcoming some of the shortages of musical instruments in Cuba where there is a huge demand for music and dance education.

“It has been fabulous to see the generosity of people across the country who have donated and collected all these instruments over the past year.”

Schools in England that took part in the donation drive include St Bede’s primary school in Clayton Green, Lancashire, and Tree Tops primary academy in Maidstone, Kent.

Manchester teacher Sue Piper, whose school took part in the donation drive, said: “It has been wonderful being involved in the Play for Cuba appeal and I have already had some really interesting conversations with people along the way.

“So many teachers and students have got involved — it really has been a team effort in our region.”

Julie Lamin, a secondary school teacher in Merseyside, said: “We had lots of donations from across Merseyside including lots of instruments from the Crosby Symphony Orchestra, which included 12 violins.

“Having been to Cuba myself, I know just how important music and arts education is over there and it has been great to be involved in such a practical appeal which really does send a message of solidarity and friendship across the Atlantic ocean.”

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